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Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer

Heat Wave is the first novel I've read by Nancy Thayer.  She lives and writes on Nantucket, and the setting for this novel is Nantucket.  In the beginning of the book the story of Carley and her daughters is what captured my interest as opposed to the writing (which nearly made me ditch it)--there were several pages that I skipped/skimmed over because they were a little boring.  Several chapters in is when the major drama starts.

In the wake of her husband's sudden death, Carley is struggling--with her finances, with the tension that occasionally blooms into conflict with her eldest daughter, and with the increasing tensions between herself and her in-laws, especially her meddling and interfering mother-in-law.  After Gus' death, Carley discovers that due to some bad investments her husband made, she's left penniless to raise their two daughters.  A stay-at-home mother, Carley never went to college, never pursued a career, has no job skills to speak of, and she hasn…

Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry

Between the Tides is the second book I've read by Patti Callahan Henry.  I previously read and reviewed her book Coming Up For Airhere on the blog (click the link to read that review).  I really enjoyed Between the Tides, and it was a quick read.  This is a lyrically written family drama steeped in the south and the mystery of a childhood tragedy that revealed a devastating family secret.

Catherine Leary is a woman who believes she's moved on from the childhood tragedy that ripped up her roots in the family's beloved Seaboro, South Carolina, but if moving on means not allowing herself to feel joy or love, has she really moved on?  Catherine reluctantly returns to Seaboro, the seaside village her family fled in the wake of a childhood tragedy for which Catherine has accepted and carried the guilt, shame and grief for nearly twenty years.  In Seaboro, Catherine is determined to make a short trip--in and out before her old friends know she's there--to toss her father'…

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is Simone St. James' first novel; it's a ghost story set in 1920's England.  It was a page turner and hard to put down, and it was suspenseful and scary, and there was a ghost, a mystery, and a romance, and I loved it, and no library in Lebanon County has An Inquiry Into Love And Death, St. James' follow up to her debut!  So now I'll have to see if I get it from outside the county.  Her third novel will drop in April 2014.  The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a historical/period drama combined with a ghost story mystery (which basically means, it's right up my alley because ENGLISH PERIOD DRAMA and GHOST STORY) populated by characters each in their own way equally damaged and scarred by tragedy.

1922.  Rural England.  London city girl, Sarah Piper, comes to the English countryside in the employ of the young, handsome and charming Alistaire Gellis.  Gellis, a veteran of World War I, has parlayed a lifelong fascination with ghosts into eeki…

Storm Front by John Sandford

It's been a while since I posted here.  I was reading Letters from Skye then I got distracted by Storm Front (which I am reviewing here), and now I've started an Elin Hilderbrand book, but I've not been reading very much of it because I've been distracted by other things (mostly Christmas).  Storm Front is the new installment in the Virgil Flowers series.  It has a Da Vinci Code-esque plot of which I was extremely skeptical.  It's like really, another mystical Bible mystery that could turn the world's religions on their heads AGAIN?  Even Virgil was, like, whoa, dude, really?  (It said so on the jacket blurb, okay?  HE AGREED WITH ME.)  However, this reads like any other Virgil Flowers novel.  This book also reiterated for me that Virgil has seriously questionable taste in women.  I mean, starting up a fling with the broad you're investigating for fraud?  Not.  Smart.

No sooner is a piece of rock bearing the name of the legendary, ancient Hebrew king Solom…

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

So Beautiful Day is the third book by Elin Hilderbrand that I've read.  Previously I read The Castaways and The Island, both of which were reviewed here on the blog (click the book titles to go to those reviews).  After I finished The Family by David Laskin, I got sucked in to Beautiful Day.  And sucked in is a pretty accurate description because the book was pretty hard to put down while I was reading it.  The common thread that runs through all of Elin Hilderbrand's books is setting; they are all set on Nantucket Island.  I must say that I rather enjoy the island setting.

The Carmichael and Graham families are gathering on Nantucket Island to celebrate the nuptial weekend of Jenna Carmichael, the adored baby of the Carmichael family, and Stuart, the eldest of four brothers Graham.  These families bring with them more than their fair share of drama and tension.  Hanging over all of this is the intensely felt absence of Beth, the much beloved matriarch of the Carmichael fami…

The Family: Three Journeys Into The Heart Of The Twentieth Century by David Laskin

I was between books, and it wasn't looking good for finding a new one that would keep my attention.  However, I recently saw this one on the new books list for the library, and it sounded interesting--the family history element combined with the two world wars grabbed my attention.  At its heart, The Family is an in-depth study of the author's mother's paternal ancestry.  It begins with Laskin's great-great-grandfather in an area of Eastern Europe called the Pale where Russia required its Jewish citizens to live and traces the families of his great-great-grandfather's children and grandchildren through the years.  It is a riveting, at times heartbreaking, read.

Laskin opens the story of his Kaganovich/Cohen ancestors in the late nineteenth century in the old country in an area of Eastern Europe that was Russia at the start of the book then became Poland and Lithuania before becoming Russia again and so on.  It is here that his Jewish ancestors made a comfortable l…

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Every time I post a review for a non-fiction book, I always remind ya'll how I don't read non-fiction because non-fiction books rarely keep my attention long enough for me to finish them.  Every once in a while I find a non-fiction book that keeps my attention and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan is one of those books.  It is also a book that I learned a lot from--so it has at least those two things going for it: it kept my attention both writing and content wise AND I learned a lot.  That's always a good thing.

Zealot is an examination and analysis of the historical Jesus through the lens of his Jewish identity and within the context of the culture, politics and geography of his time period.  This is an insightful, interesting, spellbinding, fascinating read.  A scholar of religions, Aslan relies on his own translations of the original Greek and Hebrew of Biblical passages to illuminate the texts in his examination of the contemporary culture,…

The Road To Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories edited by Marsha Altman

I must confess there was a period of time a couple years ago where I was watching a lot of British period dramas that included film and/or mini series adaptations of every one of Jane Austen's novels (for some novels, I've seen two different adaptations; it was an obsession at the time, what can I say) and adaptations of some of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels (hello, North & South), and I still like a good British drama, period or otherwise.  I've never read any of the novels for which I've seen adaptations.  I know, I'm bad.  Don't judge.  In the introduction to this anthology the editor, Marsha Altman, calls the collection Pride & Prejudice fanfiction.  I must confess (again) that I literally couldn't put this book down.  I said, DON'T JUDGE, didn't I?

At some point there was mention of a theme for the collection that was since abandoned, and I don't think there was a particular theme for the stories, although a few took the idea of e…

I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Haynes and Loretta Nyhan

I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan is the other book that I was reading while I read My Name Is Mina.  I liked I'll Be Seeing You a lot better than that Mina book.  This is the kind of book that sneaks up on you and sucks you in before you realize what's happening.  It's a pretty fast read and once the letters start going back and forth between the two women, it turns into a page turner because you want to find out what's going to happen in their lives and will their men make it home from the war and then what's going happen next when they do come home and wait, it's the end of the book?!  But what happens in the post-war years to these women and their families?

According to book jacket, the story reflects the authors' own story, and there's an interview at the end of the book that explains this.  Apparently, the authors are penpals over email who met through one of their blogs.  As of the day of the interview they had not yet met…

My Name Is Mina by David Almond

My Name Is Mina by David Almond is the follow up to Skellig, previously reviewed on the blog.  It is the pre-quel to the story that takes place in Skellig.  To be honest, I don't really know what to make of this book, and if I hadn't already written here on the blog in Skellig's review that I would also read My Name Is Mina, I don't know that I would have finished the book.  While I was reading this book, I was also reading another book at the same time, so it took longer to finish both than it normally would have.

The story is told entirely from Mina's perspective through the mechanism of her journal entries in which she shares eccentric writings and observations, including life musings, stories, and extraordinary activities.  She also looks back on the miserable days she spent in school and what lead to her mother's decision to pull her out of the school and home school her instead.

Mina was eccentric in Skellig, but My Name Is Mina reveals the depths of he…

Lost by S.J. Bolton

Long (long) time regular readers of this blog know by now that I'm a fan of S.J. Bolton.  I've read and reviewed all of her (now) six books on the blog.  You can go here, here, here, here and here to read those other reviews.  If you haven't already read any of her books, well, I highly recommend that you do.  A good one to start with is her first, Sacrifice.  You will be suspicious of authority figures in all the books you read after that one.  Looking back over my other Bolton reviews, I see that I've said in nearly all of them that this is her most twisted and darkest yet.  And at the time it's true--until the next one comes out.  Lost is S.J. Bolton's sixth book overall and the third in the Lacey Flint series.

Lacey is still reeling from the terrifying ordeal she was forced to survive when the undercover sting she was part of in the last installment pretty much went off the rails in a blaze of twisted, blackest glory.  She's cut herself off from DI Mar…

Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

Stoker's Manuscript is Royce Prouty's debut novel.  It was very good, and it has everything: a coded message in a literary classic, mystery, intrigue, history, an unusual old world setting, a 'treasure' hunt, a family history/tragedy shrouded in mystery PLUS VAMPIRES thrown in as a bonus.  Incidentally this was the last book I read... I think I finished it around the end of July, and I'm currently (still) between books because I haven't yet started a new one.  What's depressing is that I have a pile of good ones at home that look really promising, and I don't know which to read first is part of my problem.

Joseph Barkeley, a modestly successful purveyor of rare, collectible, and antique books in Chicago, is contacted out of the blue one day by an agent acting on behalf of an anonymous buyer who wishes to acquire a rare manuscript that's recently come up for sale in Philadelphia.  This is the eponymous manuscript of the book's title and, readers,…

Skellig by David Almond

Skellig is an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book; it's a juvenile fiction book, and it's about 200 pages long with short chapters and it's a rather fast read.  A few years ago the library got a book called My Name Is Mina which was David Almond's follow up to Skellig.  I put both books on my reading list because I wanted to read Skellig first.  It turns out that while My Name Is Mina is the follow up to Skellig, Mina is actually a prequel to Skellig.

Michael and his parents and baby sister (who remains nameless until the very last sentence of the book) have moved into a new house that can modestly be described as a fixer upper.  It needs lots of work on the house, on the yard and on the garage--everything's dirty, falling together, overgrown, covered in debris, and been left to ruin and neglect by the previous, elderly owner.  But Michael's parents have big plans for the house, although after his sister is born prematurely and must …

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is subtitled "found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker."  I'm not usually one to read the classics (unless I'm required to read one of them for a class).  However, since Sleepy Hollow, Fox's take on the classic short story by Washington Irving, will debut this fall, I thought I should read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" first even though in the world of the TV show the short story itself does not exist.

The premise of the show is this: somehow both Ichabod Crane and the infamous Headless Horseman are transported from the time of the American Revolution to the present day.  The Headless Horseman begins terrorizing Sleepy Hollow's local denizens anew, and Crane joins forces with a female sheriff's deputy/detective to 'solve' the crimes perpetrated by the Horseman.  And one would assume ultimately to find a way to stop the Horseman once and for all.

I believe the show is getting mix…

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

The Mourning Hours is the first novel by Paul Treick DeBoard.  The story opens in the middle of the night on a highway in Wisconsin where Kirsten's on her way home for the first time in years.  While it's not a happy homecoming for Kirsten and her siblings, it will lead to closure, healing and redemption for her family.  This is a story about a missing girl, but its focus is the aftermath of her disappearance on her boyfriend's family and the toll it takes on them as public opinion convicts him as guilty of causing her disappearance.  The other night I had thismuch left of the book to read, and we still didn't know for sure what happened to this girl, and I thought, 'I swear if I get to the end of this book, and we still don't for FOR REAL what happened to this chick, I'm not going to be happy.'  Lucky for you all I was happy with the ending so you don't all have to listen to me gripe about it.

After the story opens in the present, we flashback fift…

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman stars a rather incestuous group of friends made up of a triumvirate of sisters and three male friends.  The story is atmospheric, lyrical, gothic and complicated.  Okay complicated might be putting it mildly describing the dynamics running beneath the surface of this tragic family and its slightly dysfunctional entanglements binding them one to another that ultimately rend them asunder and estranged.  The story is divided into three parts told from three different perspectives--that of the youngest sister, Maisie; Daniel Nunn, the poor, village boy of Romany descent who's a childhood friend of the family; and Julia, the eldest of the sisters.

The story opens in the seemingly idyllic summer of 1967, but appearances are deceiving and when the summer's through, a summer in which change is expected as childhood friends grow up and strike out on their own, the Mortland family and those who loved them will never be the same.  There are three Mor…

Before The Poison by Peter Robinson

Before The Poison by Peter Robinson is the first book I've read by this author.  He has written other books. I'm not sure what I think about this book.  It kept me reading, but lately I've been finding that I'm ambivalent about these books once I reach the end.  I don't really have strong feelings one way or the other about this book or any of the characters in this book.  The thing I liked about this book was the historical mystery and the detective work/research involved in piecing it together.  There is also the implied supernatural element that is ever so subtly tiptoed around that I didn't really know what to make of it--like it's said the narrator may or may not be 'more sensitive' to the next world and that this is in the end how he knows with such certainty what exactly occurred in the house the night its last occupant croaked.  Once he's gone as far as he can go with the concrete research, the results of which he uses to flesh out a the…

Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee

Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee is the aforementioned novel that had common themes and settings with The Violets of March, previously reviewed here on the blog.  Both cheating husbands are real pieces of work, but the cheating husband in this one is a real stinking piece of work.

Jasmine is called home to Shelter Island in Puget Sound by her beloved aunt Ruma to take care of her aunt's eccentric bookstore while Ruma travels to India for a month.  It's a perfect opportunity to get away--to get away from her job, to get away from the ex-husband that cheated on her, to get away from the painful divorce proceedings that keep dragging on.  It's the perfect opportunity to return to her home, her roots and her family to heal from the betrayal of a cheating husband.

When Jasmine arrives she finds a dusty, gloomy, cluttered, old fashioned bookstore housed in a lovely, temperamental Victorian house that gets "cranky" when left unattended overnight.  This is a fact that…

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

The Violets of March is Sarah Jio's debut novel.  It has a few things in common with the next book that I'll review: both books are set on islands off the coast of Washington near Seattle and both books chronicle a woman's healing in the wake of infidelity and divorce.  Sometimes it seems I read books with similarities in character names, settings or plot themes; it's not something that I try to do, it just happens randomly.

So.  This is what bothered me throughout the entire novel.  The familial relationship between Emily, a struggling writer suffering chronic writer's block, and Bee, an eccentric, secretive octogenarian, is described early in the book as such: Bee is Emily's mother's aunt.  Except pages later Bee is described as an only child, the sole heir of her parents.  As a genealogist, I worried over this the whole book through because how is Bee Emily's great-aunt if Bee is an only child?  It is never spelled out or specified that the relation…

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

I think this is Nichole Bernier's first novel.  If I recall correctly, I came across this book in a review in BookPage and thought it sounded good.  Anyway that was a while ago and now I'm finally getting around to reading it.  Ultimately it's a good read--it reads fast. And you feel compassion for the main character, Kate, because she's kind of at a precarious crossroads in her life, she's mourning the loss of her closest friend, there's a growing distance between her and her husband, and while she tries to reach out to him while she works through her grief compounded by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he's all, 'eh, I've worked through all that, and I'm over it and why can't you be too.'

It's the summer following the terrorist attacks of 2011, and Kate's struggling to cope with a world seemingly on fire--there are stories in the news every day about a new terrorist plot or cell being foiled, another anthrax laced letter, or a …

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

This is Hood's fifth novel, but The Obituary Writer is the first Ann Hood book that I've read.  In theory the premise of this story is more interesting than the story actually turns out to be, and I guess I don't really have strong feelings one way or the other over this book much the same way I didn't really have strong feelings about the book in the previous review.  While one story is resolved and wrapped up, the resolution to the other part of the story is left ambiguous--like for me, I couldn't tell if it was going to go one way or the other way after the story was over and that bugged me a little bit.

Claire (same name, different spelling than the main character from the book in the previous review, a coincidence I didn't notice until I started writing up some notes for this review) is a housewife in 1963.  The mother of a toddler girl, Claire doesn't realize how unhappy she is in her marriage or how much she dislikes her husband until she meets, fal…

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

I know it's been a while since my last post.  It took a while to find another book to read.  I went through a few before this one stuck.  Sometimes that happens and it's annoying.  So here we are with The Drowning House, the first novel by Elizabeth Black, and I feel like it could have been more than it was.  This novel is about many things except for what the book jacket says.  According to the jacket, it's a novel about a woman who returns home in the wake of a family tragedy to put together some photography exhibit and then is drawn into some historical mystery about whether or not the daughter of the rich family next door died in the big hurricane in 1909 (or 1906, but I could be mixing that up with the earthquake in the current book I'm reading... I know it happened at the turn of the twentieth century, okay?) and what role the woman's family played in the death.  Except this mystery plays a minor role in the story and (SPOILERS) the woman's family didn&#…

The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

I have now read all the books in The Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens, The Prophet, being the third one; there is a fourth due for release later this year.  I always read a series in order, and I always recommend others do too.  With most series you can start anywhere and then go back to the beginning to read them in order and be able to follow the developments because generally speaking events from previous books might be referenced but not integral to the current book's story.  Some series, such Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, can be read in any order because main characters don't recur from book to book and thus the developments from previous books have no bearing whatsoever on later installments.  With The Graveyard Queen series it is really imperative to read them in order.  Elements in the first one set up the main stories for the second and third (especially the third) and events in the second one inform changes in Amelia's character and are r…

Deep Down by Deborah Coates

Deep Down is the second installment in the series by Deborah Coates that features Hallie Michaels, the Afghanistan War veteran who died in an IED explosion, was resuscitated, and now sees dead people.   (See the review for the first book here.) If I'm honest with myself, I need another book series to follow like I need another hole in the head, but this one has me hook, line and sinker.  Coates does the supernatural, ghost stuff extremely well and her characterization of her heroine is vivid and full of personality.  This new book takes up about two months since the events of the last book in which some crazy, psycho dude tried to use some dark magic hoodoo stuff to control the weather (yeah, you should really read that one first and then read this one).  As this story progresses it appears that the previous events' aftermath and effects are still being felt and dealt with in this novel and may be slightly more connected to the current events detailed in this story than initia…

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read

Valley of Ashes is the fourth title in Cornelia Read's Madeline Dare series.  I've reviewed the three previous titles here on the blog.  Click here and here and here to see them.  As its predecessors did before, this latest installment picks up both later in the timeline (about a year and a half after the last book) and in a different locale than each of the others because for whatever reason, Madeline and her husband, Dean, are nomads who move every couple years.  Dean is often absent from much of the action in the story due to various business travels and as a result has remained a fairly one dimensional character.  In this installment we find out why he's away so much.  And it's because he's a verbal abuse spewing asshole of a husband who doesn't care one whit to lift a finger to help his exhausted spouse with the housework or childcare instead choosing to vaunt off on hours long bike rides on the weekends that he is home and not travelling in some far off p…

Miss Me When I'm Gone by Emily Arsenault

Miss Me When I'm Gone is Emily Arsenault's third novel.  Her first two were reviewed previously on the blog.  Go here and here to read about them.  Now that there are three I can see similarities--all three feature themes rooted in different areas of the literary world (there was the dictionary publisher setting in the first one, poetry appearing in a high school journal connected to a disappearance in the second, and the last manuscript and its research are the whole point of this third outing) and these last two also deal with themes of friendship and disconnection.  Neither of these latest two novels have settings as original as the first that was set in a dictionary publishing company whose stores of entries on index cards hid a decades old mystery.

After Jaime's old college friend, Gretchen, is found dead at the bottom of a treacherous, poorly maintained, concrete staircase, Jaime is asked by Gretchen's family to serve as unofficial literary executor of Gretchen&…

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

The Kingdom is the second installment in Amanda Stevens' Graveyard Queen series featuring Amelia Grey, the cemetery restorer who sees dead people.  I'd like to share a few random observations about the series in general before I get to the review.  First of all, why does Amelia always end up working for sketchy, ill fated broads who belong to insular, secretive groups?  Also it's nice that Amelia's adventures don't always include being reluctantly sucked into murder investigations that bring her into ill advised contact with haunted detectives.  Between all the secrets (including those carried over from the previous book regarding Amelia's origins)--Amelia's, her parents', the town's, the townspeople's, the Ashers'--that people are keeping from each other or from Amelia (or both), well, I just want to yell so spill it already!  Because let's be honest if Amelia's parents, specifically her father, had been more forthcoming with her re…